Montclair COVID-19 Cases Climb to 526: What We Know About Reported Cases

Update: Friday, 5:55 p.m. – The township Health Department reports that as of 09-04-20, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from 521 to 526 – two of the new cases are individuals in long-term care. The number of individuals who did not survive the illness increased from 54 to 55 – the new case is an individual who was in long-term care.

Montclair’s confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from 499 on Friday, August 28 to 521 as of Thursday, September 3.

The Township Health Department reported Thursday that eight new cases — the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from 513 to 521 in one day – are individuals in long-term care. The number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 54.

Other towns, such as West Orange are providing additional data regarding cases, including total negative test results and with regard to new cases, the ages and gender of the individuals.

“With regard to reporting, barring some of the age information and some specifics that our Health Department feels may compromise confidentiality, they are working to see if they can provide additional details in report-outs provided through Communications,” says Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller.

Some local health departments withhold data, fearing that disclosing too much information could lead to discrimination or stigma.

Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds notified families and caregivers Thursday that one of their staff members tested positive for COVID.

Ponds stated that the individual did not have direct contact with any of students and added that after in consultation with the Department of Health, school physician, and District Nursing Supervisor, “we believe that none of our students are at risk for exposure.”

Montclair Schools will start the year with remote learning.

Montclair State has now reported three cases as of Friday, two students and one employee.

Montclair’s Health Department Director Sue Portuese and Director of Nursing Margaret Brodowski have been communicating with the Montclair State University’s Health Center director Patricia Ruiz about MSU’s reopening plan and their process for determining when to test students and allow or exclude them from campus activities.

Portuese does not yet have the university’s complete plan, however, all colleges in New Jersey are required to follow the “Restart Standards for all New Jersey Institutions of Higher Education” issued by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE).

Should the township of Montclair, and other surrounding communities be concerned about the potential of the MSU campus being a super spreader? MSU faculty member and epidemiologist Dr. Stephanie Silvera has expressed concerns, citing the school’s commuter population increasing the risks of their contracting the virus and spread it. American Federation of Teachers Local president and MSU professor Rich Wolfson was critical of the University’s reopening.

The Montclarion reported that 11 students were suspended on August 23 after they gathered in large groups to party without masks or social distancing.

Per the University’s Restart Plan, all staff and students coming/returning to campus are required to complete our daily online self-assessment, called Hawk Check, each day.

  • If a student who lives on campus answers yes to any question, the student should self-isolate (quarantine) in their room and contact the University Health Center.
  • If a student who lives off campus answers yes to any question, the student should remain off-campus and consider contacting a healthcare provider. In either case, the student may, based on symptoms and risk factors reported, receive a call from the University Health Center.
  • As of August 8, 2020, students or someone in their household who is experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness or have tested positive for COVID-19, should remain on home isolation at least until 10 DAYS have passed since symptoms first appeared AND at least 1 day (24 hours) with no fever, without use of fever-reducing medication AND improvement in symptoms. If they have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, they should self-quarantine for 14 days from the last exposure to the COVID-19 person.
  • Montclair State is not requiring additional testing for residential students unless their health care provider thinks it is necessary; the University is requiring additional testing for student-athletes and students in “high contact” areas like the performing arts.

Hundreds of colleges around the country have walked back plans for in-person classes and many that have opened are struggling to keep students safe and cases down. On Thursday, Suny Oneonta shut down its campus, sending students home after a few parties in late August resulted in nearly 400 positive cases.

In South Orange, soon after Seton Hall University reported its first on-campus case of COVID-19 since April, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum met with University leadership.

Montclair’s Reported Cases

Montclair State University’s campus covers areas in three towns and two counties which adds a layer of complexity to contact tracing and case investigations. Montclair Township Health Department is responsible for cases and contact tracing of individuals living in dormitories located in Montclair. The Clifton health department covers cases and contact tracing of individuals who reside in dorms located in Clifton and Little Falls.

If a student identifies simply as “living at Montclair State University,” the case is referred to the Montclair Health Department where exact address information will be determined.

Cases of professors and instructors testing positive are reported in the town where they reside. All such cases are linked to MSU for contact tracing. Decisions on how to proceed with investigations are based on whether close contact was made with individuals in classrooms, those living in dorms, etc.

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